Media Influences on Social Outcomes: The Impact of Mtv's 16 and Pregnant on Teen Childbearing

57 Pages Posted: 14 Jan 2014 Last revised: 19 Feb 2014

See all articles by Melissa S. Kearney

Melissa S. Kearney

University of Maryland - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Phillip B. Levine

Wellesley College; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: January 2014

Abstract

This paper explores the impact of the introduction of the widely viewed MTV show 16 and Pregnant on teen childbearing. The reality TV show follows the lives of pregnant teenagers during the final months of their pregnancy and early months of motherhood. We match Vital Statistics birth data to Nielson television ratings data to investigate whether exposure to the show had an impact on teen childbearing rates. We implement an instrumental variables (IV) strategy using local area MTV ratings data from a pre-period to predict local area 16 and Pregnant ratings. We also introduce event study methods, utilizing the specific timing of the show’s introduction to identify a causal effect. The results of this analysis imply that the introduction of this MTV show led to a 4.3 percent reduction in teen births in the 18 months following its initial airing. This accounts for 24 percent of the overall decline in teen births in the United States during that period. We supplement these findings with an examination of data from Google Trends and Twitter, which suggest that this show led to increased interest in contraceptive use and abortion, as captured by internet search and tweeting behavior.

Suggested Citation

Kearney, Melissa S. and Levine, Phillip B., Media Influences on Social Outcomes: The Impact of Mtv's 16 and Pregnant on Teen Childbearing (January 2014). NBER Working Paper No. w19795. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2378679

Melissa S. Kearney (Contact Author)

University of Maryland - Department of Economics ( email )

College Park, MD 20742
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Phillip B. Levine

Wellesley College ( email )

106 Central Street
Wellesley, MA 02181
United States
781-283-2162 (Phone)
781-283-2177 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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